There has always been a lot of incorrect information about what the CIA is and is not allowed to do domestically. I’ve seen some individuals write that it is illegal for them to operate inside the United States at all – which makes it hard to explain why there were telephone numbers for the CIA in all our major metropolitan cities. And if you think about their role in intelligence collection for a bit, you realize that essentially writing off contact with all American’s who travel overseas, who work inside the nation’s borders with foreign businesses, or are in contact with foreign diplomatic personnel would mean abandoning serious sources of information. The same would apply for choosing not to monitor known or suspected foreign agents – certainly the FBI would have a role in criminal actions by such individuals (as in espionage) but political action and various types of psychological warfare are not criminal, just dangerous (and informative).
For a better idea of what the CIA was did domestically during the Cold War, and some insight on where they crossed the lines, I would suggest a reading of the Rockefeller Committee findings on the subject:
What is of most interest to those interested in the JFK Assassination has to do with the CIA’s legitimate role in collection of foreign intelligence inside the United States – specifically in regard to what should reasonably have been its interest in Lee Harvey Oswald. Given Oswald’s time inside Russia, he would have been a valuable source for insight on a variety of Russian protocols and practices, not to mention the basic open source information he would have picked up living in Russian and working in a Russian factory. Sources on such things were not all readily available in the early 1960’s.
Certainly it would be reasonable to find a Domestic Operations file on Oswald, with material collected by that division and also material copied from other groups – for example, pertaining to his travel to Mexico and his contacts with the Cuban and Russian embassies in Mexico City, valuable information given those two embassies were major CIA intelligence targets. Yet as far as I can tell, after contacting some very knowledgeable researchers, we find no Domestic Operations file on Oswald and no obvious circulation of Oswald documents to that group. In fact one of the mysteries that emerges is that we appear to have paid so little attention to Domestic Operations that it is not quite clear that we even know what that distribution code should be…still working on that one.
What we do know, and if you have SWHT 2010 you will find it in Chapter 20: Loose Ends, is that a Domestic Operations officer in Dallas, J.Walton Moore, contacted a voluntary source, Goerge D. Mohrenschildt, who was well embedded within the Dallas Russian expatriate community in regard to a couple coming to Dallas from Russia – Lee and Marina Oswald. We know that D Mohrenschildt did so, became friends with the Oswald’s and apparently encouraged – and likely funded – Oswald’s hiring of a secretary to prepare a journal of his time in Russia. In one aspect that journal (never fully completed nor published) served as a very effective and extended debriefing document on Oswald’s time in Russia. Certainly the sort of thing valued by the CIA. However apart from that we find no direct contact by Domestic Operations with Oswald (we do find several FBI contacts) and as noted above, apparently no Domestic Operations documents on Oswald at all.
Did Domestic Operations pass up on a source which would have been fully within their authority and part of their standard tasking? Did they not even attempt a contact? Or for some strange reason did they have to obtain the information they would normally ask for via a cut out? For that matter, did the HSCA or the ARRB not even make an inquiry about Domestic Operations files on Oswald?
We often discuss the significance of “holes” in the record – if it is true that there was no Domestic Operations file or documents on Lee Oswald, and they were never copied on any of his activities during his return from Russia, his contacts with the Russian and Cuban embassies, or his time in Mexico, it certainly raises some questions – including whether the research community should be spending time looking at a group within the CIA we know about but have largely ignored.
I suppose – based on one of my more recent posts – I should also note that circa 1962/62, the senior CIA officer in charge of Domestic Operations was Tracy Barnes.